Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut form what was at the time the first constitution of Connecticut.
FORASMUCH as it hath pleased the Almighty God, by the wise disposition of his divine providence, so to order and dispose of things, that we the inhabitants and residents of Windsor, Hartford, and Weathersfield, are now cohabiting, and dwelling in and upon the river Connecticut, and the lands thereunto adjoining, and well knowing where a people are gathered together, the word of God requireth that, to maintain the peace and union of such a people, there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons, as occasion should require; do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be as one public STATE or COMMONWEALTH; and do, for ourselves and our successors, and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into combination and confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Loan Jesus, which we now profess, as also the discipline of the churches, which, according to the truth ofsaid gospel, is now practised amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such laws, rules, orders, and decrees, as shall be made, ordered, and decreed, as followeth:
I. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that there shall be yearly two general assemblies or courts, the one on the second Thursday of April, the other the second Thursday of September following: The first shall be called the Court of Election, wherein shall be yearly chosen, from time to time, so many magistrates and other public officers, as shall be found requisite, whereof one to be chosen governor for the year ensuing, and until another be chosen, and no other magistrate to be chosen for more than one year; provided always, there be six chosen besides the governor, which being chosen and sworn according to an oath recorded for that purpose, shall have power to administer justice according to the laws here established, and for want thereof according to the rule of the word of God; which choice shall be made by all that are admitted freemen, and have taken the oath of fidelity, and do cohabit within this jurisdiction, having been admitted inhabitants by the major part of the town where they live, or the major part of such as shall be then present.
II. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that the election of the aforesaid magistrates shall be in this manner; every person present and qualified for choice, shall bring in (to the persons deputed to receive them) one single paper, with the name of him written on it whom he desires to have governor, and he that hath the greatest number of papers shall be governor for that year: And the rest of the magistrates or public officers to be chosen in this manner; the secretary for the time being, shall first read the names of all that are to be put to choice, and then shall severally nominate them distinctly, and every one that would have the person nominated to be chosen shall bring in one single paper written upon, and he that would not have him chosen shall bring in a blank, and every one that has more written papers than blanks, shall be a magistrate for that year, which papers shall be received and told y one or more that shall be then chosen, by ‘the court, and sworn to be faithful therein; but in case there should not be six persons as aforesaid, besides the governor, out of those which are nominated, then he or they which have the most written papers, shall be a magistrate or magistrates for the-ensuing year, to make up the aforesaid number.
III. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that the secretary shall not nominate any person new, nor shall any person be chosen newly into the magistracy, Which was not propounded in some general court before, to be nominated the next election: And to that end it shall be lawful for each of the towns aforesaid, by their deputies, to nominate any two whom they conceive fit to be put to election, and the court may add so many more as they judge requisite.
IV. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that no person be chosen governor above once in two years, and that the governor be always a member of some approved congregation, and formerly of the magistracy within this jurisdiction, and all the magistrates freemen of this commonwealth; and that no magistrate or other public officer, shall execute any part of his or their office before they are severally sworn, which shall be done in the face of the court if they be present, and in case of absence, by some deputed for that purpose.
V. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that to the aforesaid court of election, the several towns shall send their deputies, and when the elections are ended they may proceed in any public service, as at other courts; also, the other general court in September, shall be for making of laws, and any other public occasion which concerns the good of the commonwealth.
VI. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that the governor shall, either by himself or by the secretary, send out summons to the constables of every town, for the calling of those two standing courts, one month at least, before their several times; and also, if the governor and the greatest part of the magistrates see cause, upon any special occasion, to call a general court, they may give order to the secretary so to do, within fourteen days warning; and if urgent necessity so require, upon a shorter notice, giving sufficient grounds for it to the deputies when they meet, or else be questioned for the same. And if the governor, or major part of the magistrates, shall either neglect or refuse to call the two general standing courts, or either of them, as also at other times when the occasions of the commonwealth require, the freemen thereof, or the major part of them, shall petition to them so to do; if then it be either denied or neglected, the said freemen, or the major part of them, shall have power to give order to the constables of the several towns to do the same, and so may meet together and choose to themselves a moderator, and may proceed to do any act of power which any other general courts may.
VII. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that after there are warrants given out for any of the said general courts, the constable or constables of each town, shall forthwith give notice distinctly, to the inhabitants of the same, in some public assembly, or by going or sending from house to house, that at a place and time by him or them limited and set, they meet and assemble themselves together, to elect and choose certain deputies to be at the general court then following, to agitate the affairs of the commonwealth, which said deputies shall be chosen by all that are admitted inhabitants in the several towns: and have taken the oath of fidelity; provided, that none be chosen a deputy for any general court which is not a freeman of this commonwealth: The aforesaid deputy shall be chosen in manner following; every person that is present and qualified, as before expressed, shall bring the names of such, written on several papers, as they desire to have chosen, for that employment; and those three or four, more or less, being the number agreed on to be chosen, for that time, that have the greatest number of papers written for them, shall be deputies for that court; whose names shall be indorsed on the back side of the warrant, and returned into the court with the constable or constables hand unto the same.
VIII. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that Windsor, Hartford, and Weathersfield, shall have power, each town, to send four of their freemen as their deputies, to every general court; and whatsoever other towns shall be hereafter added to this jurisdiction, they shall send so many deputies as the court shall judge meet; a reasonable proportion to the number of freemen that are in said towns, being to be attended therein; which deputies shall have the power of the whole town to give their votes, and allowance to all such laws and orders, as may be for the public good, and unto which the said towns are to be bound.
IX. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that the deputies thus chosen, shall have power and liberty to appoint a time and a place of meeting together, before any general court, to advise and consult of all such things as may concern the good of the public; as also to examine their own elections, whether according to the order; and if they or the greatest part of them find any election to be illegal, they may seclude such for the present from their meeting, and return the same and their reasons to the court; and if it prove true, the court may fine the party or parties so intruding upon the town, if they see cause, and give out a warrant to go to a new election in a legal way, either in part or in whole; also the said deputies shall have power to fine any that shall be disorderly at their meeting, or for not coming in due time or place, according to appointment; and they may return said fine into the court, if it be refused to be paid, and the treasurer to take notice of it, and to estreat or levy the same as he doth other fines.
X. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that every general court (except such as, through neglect of the governor and the greatest part of the magistrates, the freemen themselves do call) shall consist of the governor, or some one chosen to moderate the court, and four other magistrates at least, with the major part of the deputies of the several towns legally chosen; and in case the freemen, or the major part of them, through neglect or refusal of the governor and major part of the magistrates, shall call a court, that shall consist of the major part of the freemen that are present, or their deputies, with a moderator chosen by them; in which said general court shall consist the Supreme Power of the Commonwealth, and they only shall have power to make laws or repeal them, to grant levies, to admit freemen, to dispose of lands undisposed of, to several towns or persons, and also shall have power to call other courts, or magistrate, or any other person whatsoever, into question for any misdemeanor; and may for just causes displace or deal otherwise, according to the nature of the offence; and also may deal in any other matter that concerns the good of this commonwealth, except election of magistrates, which shall be done by the whole body of freemen; in which court the governor or moderator shall have power to order the court, to give liberty of speech, and silence unreasonable and disorderly speaking, to put all things to vote, and in case the vote be equal to have a casting voice; but none of these courts shall be adjourned or dissolved without the consent of the major part of the court.
XI. It is ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that when any general court, upon the occasions of the commonwealth, have agreed upon any sum or sums of money to be levied upon the several towns within this jurisdiction, that a committee be chosen to set out and appoint what shall be the proportion of every town to pay, of the said levy, provided the committee be made up of an equal number out of each town.
14 January 1638.
- The original Constitution of Connecticut, formed by voluntary compact, 1639, A Complete History of Connecticut: Civil and Ecclesiastical, from the Emigration of Its First Planters, from England, in the Year 1630, to the Year 1764 ; and to the Close of the Indian Wars, Volume 1
- The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639), Encyclopedia of Religion in American Politics, Volume 2